By Rich Nilsen
Not only will the finest Thoroughbred racing of the summer take place at Saratoga, but the upstate New York location is one of the best vacation getaways in the country. There’s plenty to do both before and after the races in the Adirondack region, so let’s take a peek at what is available to the lucky fans who get to venture north to one of the beautiful areas of the country.
Saratoga is a town of just over 27,000 inhabitants that lies 30 minutes north of Albany airport on Route 87. For six weeks out of the year, the area comes alive as racing enthusiasts converge from all over into the little city.
Hotels rates more than triple during this peak season, but there are two affordable alternatives. The first is to stay in Albany or Glen Falls, both nearby locations. Or, for adventurous souls, camping is available at several closer sites. Reservations should be made as soon as possible, regardless of where you will stay.
As for racing-related activities, the best is the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. Located one block from Saratoga racetrack, the museum is devoted to U.S. racing history and the lineage of horses who competed here. There are tons of trophies and photographs among the many exhibits, and a free movie is offered to visitors. Inside the entrance of the museum is one of the finest gift shops ever devoted to racing. It’s not big but it’s jam-packed with many great items. The doors open at 9 a.m. during the racing season and admission is $7.
Another recommended activity is breakfast at Saratoga racetrack. With binoculars in one hand and a fork in the other, you can gaze at the beautiful Thoroughbreds at work while enjoying a fabulous meal. Does it get any better? An announcer usually narrates during the morning activities. There is no dress code, so any attire will do. Also, backstretch tours are available each morning. The walking tours are every day, expect Travers, cost $3 per person and begin at 9:30am.
For those of you who can’t get enough of the horses or gambling in general, Saratoga Harness, runs the entire month of August with a post time of 7:05 p.m. The only dark days are Sunday and Monday. This year marks the 75th annual race meet.
Evenings are the perfect time for non-racing related activities. The Saratoga Performing Arts Center is celebrating its 50th Golden Anniversary this year. With its large, covered amphitheater, the SPAC features various types of entertainers, from pop and rock groups to classical ensembles. The National Museum of Dance and the Yaddo Gardens are two other popular attractions in Saratoga, especially for the ladies who are accompanying you to the region.
A trip here is not complete without an evening stroll through downtown Saratoga, browsing through the many stores. There are numerous good bars and restaurants, including the Old Bryan Inn, which I highly recommend.
Several fun events are scheduled during Travers Week, August 27. Taste of NY: Craft Beer is on the Friday before the Travers and, not surprisingly, a very popular event. “Street Fest,” which offers live entertainment and performances, runs from Wednesday through Saturday each night in downtown. The downtown is ‘hoppin’ and it’s a must visit for every racegoer.
The town of Lake George is less than 40 minutes away and is highly recommended for anyone visiting the Adirondack region. Fort William Henry, which played a big role in the French & Indian War, lies in the heart of the town overlooking the beautiful, crystal-clear lake that stretches for about 30 miles.
Besides sun-tanning or swimming on the local beaches, Lake George offers various water activities, including parasailing, water skiing, jet skiing, boat tours and steamboat trips. The main strip in Lake George has too many stores to count, as well as many excellent restaurants with great views. There are also outlet stores in the area that are ideal for a spouse who doesn’t share the same enthusiasm for racing. One of the best is the outlet center just off the N.Y. Thruway, entering into the Lake George area.
There is little doubt why visitors keep coming back year after year to the Adirondack region. Not only is the setting of upstate New York beautiful, but there are numerous activities to complement a fabulous race meet. If you have never been there, make plans to experience Saratoga and everything the region has to offer.
— Rich Nilsen, a native New Yorker, has written a report “Beat Saratoga – 7 Tips to Turning a Profit.” Download it today